Parham House & Gardens: An Elizabethan treasure
In the heart of an ancient deer park, idyllically nestled just below the South Downs in West Sussex, Parham House is considered one of the country’s finest Elizabethan houses
Parham House has always been a cherished family home, and only three families have lived here since the foundation stone was laid during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1577. Lady Emma Barnard has lived here with her family since 1994. Her great-grandfather, the Hon. Clive Pearson, bought the house and estate in 1922.
He and his wife Alicia found the house and garden in sad repair, and together they revived and restored both with great sensitivity and care. Motivated by a philanthropic desire to share the house and gardens with others, they opened Parham to visitors in 1948.
Parham’s tranquillity and beauty have changed little over the centuries. In the house, the Pearsons spent over 40 years filling Parham with a sensitively chosen collection of paintings, furniture, textiles, clocks, and books. They sought out interesting items which had either once been at Parham, or which had a historical or familial association with the house, or which were of a period with the building. The portraits are particularly notable, and there are many fine rugs and carpets.
Alicia Pearson was a skilled needlewoman, and she created at Parham one of the country’s finest and most important collections of early needlework. In the 1940s, Alicia insisted on having flowers all through the house for the enjoyment of visitors. Parham still follows this beautiful tradition, and sometimes as many as thirty buckets of flowers and greenery are brought in from the garden for this purpose.
The rooms in the house include the impressive Great Hall and Long Gallery. At 48 metres (158ft) long, the Long Gallery is the third-longest in a private house in England and runs the entire length of the house.
The Long Gallery. Credit: Jonathan James Wilson
The gardens at Parham consist of seven acres of Pleasure Grounds, laid out in the 18th century, with a lake, spring bulbs, a brick and turf maze, and many specimen trees. Veronica’s Maze was laid out in 1990 and was inspired by the pattern of the embroidery on the bed in the Great Chamber inside the house.
The old four-acre Walled Garden contains romantic wide herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a cut flower garden, a highly productive vegetable garden, an orchard, and a 1920s Wendy House. A splendid greenhouse from the 1920s has a fine display of pelargoniums and other tender plants. The Wendy House has an oak floor, a working fireplace, a balcony and several rooms, a treat for children to explore.
The house and gardens are open to visitors on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from Easter Sunday to early October. For more information, please visit www.parhaminsussex.co.uk.
Parham runs various events throughout the open season, including exhibitions and tours, which can be viewed on the website. Special tours take place throughout the season for those with a particular interest in the needlework and clock collections.
Parham House & Gardens, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 4HR.
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